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Ideas about the various and diverse people and places that have touched us throughout our lives.

Exploring the Orcan River of Placentia

Exploring the Orcan River of Placentia

During the summer when tourists are visiting Placentia, some may wonder why the channel connecting the two arms—Northeast and Southeast—is named Orcan. From where did that come? My only response would likely be, “good question.” There’s no definitive response. Still, there are historical characteristics that are suggestive of why. Regardless, the Orcan River is an interesting and unique feature. Let’s take a look.

Image: Location of Orcan River (Source: Google).

Physical Qualities of the Orcan in Placentia

When thinking of a river, we’d usually assume it to be a large natural channel of water emptying into a larger body which, in this case, is the Placentia Bay. However, this is not how the Orcan River functions. Rather, it’s a channel connecting the northeast arm and southeast arm. These are two landforms extending from the harbour, appearing to be like two arms reaching inland.

Image: Location of Arms (Source: Google).

Due to the movement of the tides, the ocean water enters the arms with the water in Orcan River flowing inland. Then, as the tide is going back out several hours later, the water reverses, flowing back out towards the ocean. As a result, it does appear to be a “river,” but one that daily reverses its flow.

Origins of the Name

The name itself carries a degree of mystery. We know the name “River Orcan” was used on a map drawn in 1747. However, the origins of the name remain unknown. The name must’ve been of some import at the time. Although, currently, we can only guess and point at possible reasons for the use of the name Orcan.

Image Map by Emanuel Bowen circa 1747

(Orcan River can be seen in the lower right).

Certainly in the fifteenth century in England, there was reference to a Monastery of Orcan. This was located in France, near Noyon. But also located in a different part of France is the Chateau du Bois Orcan (Castle of Orcan Wood). Clearly, the name Orcan carried some meaning at the time. Could it be that someone from that part of the world noted something reminiscent and elected to give it the name Orcan? Perhaps one day, we’ll know.

Historical Function of the Orcan

Over the centuries, the Orcan River has played a central role for the Placentia beach.1 Initially, the Basque arrived in the sixteenth century to fish. This involved fishing as well as processing the fish. The cobblestone beach serviced quite handily for salting and drying the fish.

From 1662 to 1713, the French were stationed in Placentia, to them known as Plaisance. While in Plaisance, they built three major forts. Vieux Fort was on Mount Pleasant. Fort Louis was on the Jerseyside Beach ad Castle Hill was atop Castle Hill.

Naturally, all transport was by water, with the Orcan River functioning as a major highway of the region. The Orcan would’ve featured prominently in order to transport all supplies, from foodstuffs to cannons.

Later, in 1713, the British had won Newfoundland following the War of the Spanish Succession. Having done so, they established their main garrison in Placentia. Much like the French before them, the Orcan was used in a similar manner. Eventually, they built Fort Frederick which was located on the Orcan river, near where the gut opens up into Northeast Arm and the Orcan.

Orcan River in Modern Times

In 1960, a breakwater system was built along the Orcan consisting of a boardwalk. Yet, it could not function to prevent the flooding that had always been a problem. With the arrival of 1993, a steel wall was constructed along the Orcan with the goal to reduce flooding in Placentia.

The new steel wall was a major endeavour and involved altering the flow of the Orcan. The river was essentially narrowed. Much of the road that now follows the Orcan was previously a part of the original course of the river.

In the early twentieth century, the Wakeham Sawmill was built in Petite Fort in Placentia Bay. Although, in 1942, it was moved to Placentia. It was originally situated on the Orcan River along its previous course. This was purposefully done as the logs could be moved on the water and then collected through a trap door in the sawmill.

With the changes made to the Orcan River given the construction of flood wall, the Wakeham Sawmill now sits on dryland, along the road located alongside the Orcan River.

Image of Wakeham Sawmill

The Orcan River: A Part of Life

Still today one can find several boats anchored along the Orcan River. Along its course, one can see an assortment of birds—cormorants, sea ducks, gulls and even the odd seal, pursuing their life’s needs. Periodically, one might even catch the Atlantic herring coming inshore to spawn. The multitude of opportunistic gulls that appear, make it abundantly clear this has taken place.

Throughout the year, the gulls are a mainstay along the shoreline of the Orcan River. They sometimes rest along the rocks situated at the base of Mount Pleasant. Otherwise, they’re joined by the crows on the landwash, gorging on the shellfish stranded there in the sand when the tide is out.

Image: Gulls and crows on the landwash (Source: Lee Everts).

Like the boardwalk that follows the coastline, the Orcan River is part of the identity of the Placentia area. Since the time people settled in Placentia, the Orcan River has provided an important mode of transport. At the same time, whether on a brilliant sunny day or a sombre foggy one, the Orcan river offers a striking backdrop.

While the Orcan River was clearly vital in the past, it remains a distinct feature of the Placentia area.


  1. Until the communities of Dunville, Freshwater, Jerseyside, Placentia and the unincorporated area of Argentia amalgamated in 1994.
The Meaning of Church

The Meaning of Church

Image by Anja from Pixabay

I’m not a Roman Catholic, not even a Christian, for that matter. Nor am I a follower of any other organised religion. Still, as an outsider, I notice a distinct strength emanating from the people attending Roman Catholic church (hereafter, a reference to the Roman Catholic church).

Sure, they heed the word of the higher ups in the church and the Vatican. But, in my opinion, the true might of the church doesn’t seem to come from Rome. It’s right here in the various clapboarded buildings, graced with a steeple, maybe adorned with some stained glass windows, anything the people could gather together to reflect the deep seated and resonant love felt for their faith. In fact, these structures were erected by many of the forebears in the community.

I joined thousands to cheer when the Supreme Court of Canada held the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corp. (RCEC) of St. John’s responsible for the sexual abuse that took place in Mount Cashel, an orphanage run by the Irish Christian Brothers.

Mount Cashel Orphanage, St. John’s NL, Circa 1975 (Source: Wikipedia).

These findings opened the door for hundreds of men who could then pursue their own claims against RCEC. The cost would likely exceed $50 million. But here’s the thing. In order to pay for their deeds, the RCEC did not plunge their hand into their own pockets.

Instead, hundreds of churches were put on the block to be sold in order to pay for court decisions made in 2021. The general sentiment was shock. The RCEC was now foisting responsibility over to the people. To my eyes, it seemed like a simple replay of the original offence for which they were now being forced to pay.

Yet, they were clearly refusing to do so. How is this any different from decades spent ignoring the hell countless young boys were suffering? How is it any different from years then spent appealing the decisions made by the courts?

And I’m certainly not alone. Some felt much the same in places such as Branch and in general. In Branch, the people rallied together, actively contesting the selling of their church. What they said, in no uncertain terms, was this church belongs to us, so hands off.

Sacred Heart in Placentia (Source: Lee Everts).

Opting for a more passive approach, in Placentia, the people are hoping the fact the church may sit over graves will prevent it from suffering a similar fate as so many other churches. Cemeteries are not included in the bankruptcy proceedings of the RCEC. We have yet to hear the end of that story and can only hope they’re successful.

It seems improper, almost indecent for the RCEC. When they’re forced to take responsibility, they find yet another way to dodge the bullet and still not take the responsibility. Now, it’s the people who have to pay for a crime they had no hand in committing.

The story is the same around the world. After all these decades, with their refusal to take responsibility, the RCEC continues to say, we did nothing wrong—so you pay.

Hand on heart, the Vatican will make its apologies, seemingly honest and genuine. Although, until they actually open their coffers and ante up, their words will ring false.

Regardless, the people will continue to attend their churches, the ones for which they expended great energy to create. It’s here where we must note how the beauty, love, generosity and kindness at the heart of their actions are in no way tied to the RCEC, an entity unto itself.

In fact, the actions of individual priests, bishops and other clergy who are innocent of the crimes as well as the people, cannot be tied to the RCEC.

The actions of the RCEC are to maintain, at all costs, the power of their corporation. The actions of the parishioners have always been to strengthen and fortify the power of their community. People lay at the heart of their endeavours.

Image by Photo Mix from Pixabay.

Cape St Mary’s Ecological Reserve

Cape St Mary’s Ecological Reserve

Image of Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve (Source: D. Gordon E. Robertson Wikipedia)

Located at the southern tip of the Cape Shore,1 Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve can lay claim to a rich and diverse identity. It is an identity that touches on the many rich ecological, social and cultural attributes of the area.

Ecological Reserve

Nowadays, Cape St. Mary’s is best known for the Ecological Reserve that covers approximately 64 km2 with 54 km2 comprising the marine portion. Cape St. Mary’s had been recognised as early as 1964 as a Wildlife Reserve. However, in 1983, the enactment of the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Act paved the way for Cape St. Mary’s to become an Ecological Reserve. The Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Act functions to “preserve special and representative natural areas in Newfoundland and Labrador.”


Given this aim, the Ecological Reserve is home to a wide array of the seabirds, flora and fauna that make a home in this unique part of Newfoundland and Labrador. The Ecological Reserve or the Cape, is the location of one of the six gannetries in Atlantic Canada and is the fourth largest in North America.

Image of Gannets (Source: CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikipedia).

Along with gannets who annually nest on a sea stack (customarily referred to as Bird Rock), a host of other seabirds can also be seen in the sky or nesting on the cliffs below about a ten minute walk away from the Interpretation Centre. Casting an eye around, one may spot black-legged kittiwakes, Common Murres (Turres), Thick-billed Murres, Great and Double-crested Cormorants (Shags), Herring Gulls and Great Black-backed Gulls (Saddlebacks).

Image of Double-Crested Cormorant (Source: Wikipedia).

Alongside the seabirds, land birds also nest at the Cape. Some of these birds include Horned Larks, Water Pipits, Kestrels and Common Ravens. Seaducks, such as the endangered Harlequin Duck also winter off the coast of Cape St. Mary’s. And on a good day, one may be lucky enough to spy a few other species who periodically visit the Cape, including caribou, humpback, fin and Minke whales. Wildlife present on the Cape one would be less likely to spot are species such as the red fox and coyotes.


Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve occupies an ecoregion known as the Eastern Hyper-Oceanic Barrens. And so, the flora and fauna nest and whirl amidst a land that is punctuated by its beautiful trees and plants. There are areas of tuckamore primarily of the balsam fir species. A view of the landscape will also reveal a plethora of beautiful irises (Northern Blue Flag Iris) that bloom in the summer as well as alpine moss, such as Moss Campion and Pink Crowberry. Collectively, they offer colourful decor for the open barrens.

Image of Northern Blue flag Iris (Source: D. Gordon E. RobertsonWikipedia).

Given the nature of this part of Newfoundland and Labrador, one of the objectives in the management plan of the Ecological Reserve is “to foster scientific studies.” Such studies help to ensure the integrity of the Ecological Reserve.

Cultural Life

However, prior to its current identity as an ecological reserve, Cape St. Mary’s was embedded in the social and cultural life of the region. The Reserve is home to a lighthouse built in 1860. Since this time, it has ensured that the boats could safely navigate the sometimes hazardous waters of Placentia Bay.

Image of lighthouse at Cape St. Mary’s (Source: Magicpiano CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikipedia).

One of the lighthouse keepers was John O’Reilly, the father of Thomas O’Reilly, the Magistrate of Placentia from 1877-97. It was these individuals who founded communities such as Golden Bay and Lear’s Cove.

The lives and the memory of these men, women and children can be found echoing on the Cape and still animating the history that brings it to life. Since 1999, the Cape St. Mary’s Performance Series has showcased the rich cultural history, music, stories and photographs of Cape St. Mary’s, as well as other places in the province. It is a fitting event that celebrates the rich identity and mosaic we know as Cape St. Mary’s.


  1. The Cape Shore is located in the southwestern portion of the Avalon, a peninsula in southeastern Newfoundland and Labrador.
Amidst the Distress, There’s Always Hope

Amidst the Distress, There’s Always Hope

We live in a world where increasingly, we are confronted with more and more trauma and devastation—wars, protests, people fleeing homes that have been destroyed and so on. Too often, we are left in utter disbelief with these heartrending realities. Unquestioningly, a page through a history book will assure us it’s nothing new. These are the sad realities people have had to face throughout the ages. Nonetheless, many of these stories bring with them torment and distress. And we are left with the agonising sense that there’s nothing we can do. Yet, are we sure?

Distress in the World

One doesn’t have to look for long to find some reference to a war raging in some part of our beautiful world. Currently, the obvious places of unrest are in Yemen and Ukraine, as well as a ramping up distress in China. Of course, there are many other hotspots, including in Haiti, Syria, Nigeria, Somalia. I could go on, but the list is endless.

Destruction in the residential neighbourhoods near mountain Attan

(Source: Ibrahem Qasim on Wikipedia).

We are brought news of the machinations amongst countries that are further enraging this war. Countries in the west, primarily the United States and what some may regard as its loyal accomplices—Britain, Europe and Canada primary amongst them—are often turning the screws on these countries.

We are also confronted with a media, too often guided by these governments. Moreover, media takes a strange delight in predominantly bringing us stories of mayhem, the world falling apart. Most news is bad news.

Syrian refugee centre on the Turkish border 80 kilometres from Aleppo, Syria (3 August 2012)

(Source: Wikipedia).

Along with unending accounts of war, we are told of the harsh realities faced by refugees. Caught in a vice, these people are often in a desperate attempt to escape their homelands. In fact, it is those homelands that were brought to a breaking point by many of the western powers, for instance, United States, Britain Europe, and Canada.

Often, the migration of these refugees is not without its own problems. Any number comes to mind. For instance, there are certain conditions tied to the permission to enter a country that don’t make it easy to remain. Things are rarely straightforward.

Complexity of the Plight Facing the World

We may sigh in frustration. It can lead to feelings of exasperation and in its extreme, to an apathy. The reason why is simply because, under normal circumstances, when we see a problem, we do something to solve it with the hope of making a difference. That’s how it normally works. And usually, our efforts lead to some degree of success. However, as noted, these challenges are often big and decidedly tenacious.

Although, the first step is perhaps realising these problems of warfare, refugees fleeing unstable regions or any number of the sources of unrest afflicting our world are ongoing. They didn’t just begin. Often, if we look back, we can see the harbingers in the past years.

Secondly, I think it’s essential to recognise the vast scope of these problems. They’re not minor obstacles facing a country. Their complexity is foreboding and will take the efforts of numerous individuals to unravel.

In Our Small Way, We Do What We Can

Simply put, there’s only so much we can do. And there’s one important thing we must do. We need to shift our focus from the the actions over which we have little to no control to those over which we can have some impact. We’re always being told to think big. But sometimes, in order to make a difference, we have to think small, or at least to a size we can handle.

Many sign petitions and thus, help to make a difference (Source: Andrea Piacquadio Pexels).

It’s certainly imperative we do our bit. It could entail signing a petition. Maybe, it’ll be a matter of sending a bit of money to aid in the cause. It may seem like these things don’t make any difference. However, it means a little more money or one more name that, in combination with others, makes an immense difference. So, we’re in this together. Beyond these measures, is there anything else we can do?

Some of us take a further step and actively work to aid the refugees who may happen to arrive in Canada. For instance, some organisations will take it upon themselves to host an individual, couple or family who are seeking to eventually immigrate. Perhaps their first step is as a refugee.

The organisation takes it on themselves to smooth out the process. Often, this involves ensuring the individuals have shelter. Otherwise, there’s need to assist newcomers in navigating the educational and health systems, managing their finances, learning English or French and so on. Taking these actions will not solve the overall problems besetting the world. Still, however small, they’ll make a noticeable difference.

It’s All Connected

Our world is comprised of innumerable connections and the idea is to generate and create positive energy that we know will grow and eventually spread. It won’t be immediate. But in time, we will see the change.

Hope (Source: Shihab Nymur, Pexels).

And ultimately, our small changes will serve to inspire and encourage those around us to somehow make a difference, themselves. Again, it can be in however small a way. Each of us acting in our small way helps us to realise we are part of a much larger world. More importantly, what we do in our small corner of that world makes a difference to the whole. After all, we’re all connected. We’re all one.

A Landscape of Garbage

A Landscape of Garbage

Our waste may be a central part of our lives, although once we’ve marched it to the curb, it’s quickly ejected from our thoughts. It’s an exercise in great irony. The landscape of garbage epitomised by the jagged hills of our landfills, is filled with the bits and pieces of our forgotten lives. Yet these landscapes, however much they are disregarded, are an aspect of who we are. And they are firmly in the here and now. Our waste is us, so to speak.

Landfills are usually sited on the outskirts of any community. For those of us in eastern Placentia Bay, all of our waste heads to Robin Hood Bay Waste & Recycling, located at the edge of St. John’s, NL.

Photo by Valeria Vaganian on Unsplash

The immense mounds of the landfill holds our remains, myriad items, each stamped with the memories of our lives—food, bedding, once-loved birthday gifts, and numerous other objects deemed essential at one time or another. They’re all there, crushed, mulched, and mangled together, their usefulness now a distant memory.

Landfills are vast landscapes, resonant of a host of historical, social, economic, political meanings. Each are awkwardly aligned. As a landscape, landfills will always be confounding in their complexity.

Historical Aspect of Landfills

The idea of a landfill isn’t new. We’ve always needed a place to discard our waste. Whether we like it or not, the idea is a deeply embedded element of our history, one going back to the dawn of time.

In previous centuries, it might have better been referred to as a midden. Originally of Scandinavian origin, the word derived from the Swedish mödding. The midden would remain uncovered and simply accumulate the waste. Shell middens were common, and a reflection of its creator’s diet.

Photograph of a shell midden in Argentina (Source: Wikipedia).

In recent years, many of us would recall the “dumps” in our neighbourhoods. And they were just that, a dump. There was no real organisation to them. They’d be possibly open only at prescribed times, but generally, whatever we no longer wanted, these items could be dumped there.

Landfills, by contrast, are different entities. Yes, they’re dumps, although there’s more attention paid to their management and organisation. They yield a landscape that may not be aesthetically appealing. Nonetheless, these landscapes play an essential role in our lives.

The Plastic Dilemma

During the time landfills or middens were used in the past, the vast majority of the waste was organic in nature. While some of the materials, such as bone, may have taken a longer period of time to decompose, they would eventually degrade.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Things changed with the development of plastic. Originating in the mid nineteenth century, it really surged into our lives during the Second World War when plastics became a ready alternative to metal. Everything subsequently changed regarding the disposal of an increasing abundance of plastic waste going into our landfills.

Fast forward to the current situation that confounds us. If there’s a need for an item, no doubt there’s a version with at least some component being constructed with plastic. Bags of every sort, computers, diapers, cups and saucers, knives and forks, shoes, clothing, and virtually everything we need uses some form of plastic.

A trot to the local landfill will find every one of them taking up their place in the jumble of materials in the various heaps. Currently around 350–400 million tons of plastic waste is generated every year. Unfortunately, there’s little indication this will diminish any time soon.

It’s unknown how long plastics take to degrade. If they do, it would no doubt exceed several of our lifetimes. Plastics are composed primarily of carbon, much like ourselves. Despite being biobased, the plastics—micro- and macro-—do not biodegrade. Technically, though, they do break down, as opposed to decomposing.

Having broken down, the resulting microplastics that result have led to a host of other problems. They are especially dangerous in aquatic habitats where the fish invariably ingest them. Those microplastics then just travel along the food web until they get to the animals at the top of the web—like us.

Microplastics have numerous ways of getting into humans. They’re in the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breath. It’s epidemic. We generally consume about a credit card’s worth of plastic every week. That’s about 5 grams. Researchers certainly feel microplastics are not beneficial in our systems. However, there’s no real knowledge of their impact. For instance, how long do they even remain in our bodies?

Albeit worrisome, we can make decisions that reduce the presence of plastic in our lives. Try using less single-use plastic, including food packaging. Maybe recycle that water bottle and buy one made of glass. How about thinking twice about using that disposable plate and cutlery. These are only a few of many options available to us.

While efforts to divert plastics from the waste are ongoing, they don’t solve the problem of the excessive amount going into the landfills. Currently in Canada, only 9% of plastics are recycled. That’s not a lot. Still, it’s up to us to ensure this statistic increases. Other options are opening up in terms of dealing with our abundance of plastics.

Researchers are exploring whether certain microorganisims can be used to biodegrade the plastics. Potential strains including Streptococcus, Aspergillus, Bacillus, Staphylococcus Penicillium, Moraxella and Streptomyces are potential microorganisms that can biodegrade plastic. If obtained from the landfill environment, these microorganisms can be used in biodegradation of plastic wastes in a controlled environment such as a landfill. Researchers continue to explore these options.

Landfills are a growing industry. This element of the landscape poses immense challenges for humans. There are more than 10,000 landfills in Canada and they are rapidly reaching their capacity.

We’re able to shave off a fraction of the waste by re-directing it to recycling, about 28% of it. But the rest heads to the landfill, is shipped abroad—still a problem, but now someone else’s—or is burned. The export of waste is becoming less appealing for those in receipt. Increasingly, they’re beginning to reject these “gifts” we’re offering.

Landfills and Wildlife

Landfills are an assured source of food for our feathered friends. In various landfills, we can always find our steadfast gulls, never one to overlook an opportunity. Elsewhere, landfills will also draw starlings, as well as bald eagles to note another two loyal patrons. Neither are above taking advantage of the smorgasbord on offer at a landfill.

Gull image – Free stock photo – Public Domain photo – CC0

It’s a double-edged sword for the gull. While a landfill appears to be a veritable banquet, it is also filled with a host of non-organic materials. And gulls are open to all and sundry where food is concerned. Gulls, in particular, are exceedingly adept at dealing with unwanted items entering their digestive system. They simply regurgitate the material and job done. But what remains can still cause a problem.

Sharp-edged materials can potentially poke holes in their digestive tracts causing any number of infections. The same would be true of any animals dining on our waste, such as bald eagles or starlings. For instance, researchers have discovered starlings are ingesting food containing chemicals from flame retardants. It’s suggested insects such as crickets in mainland Canada are ingesting the chemicals. These chemicals are simply being passed on to starlings when they ingest the insect.

Landfills and Pollution

Landfills are admittedly a physical eyesore in the landscape. But after all, no one goes to a landfill expecting beauty. The landfill at Robin Hood Bay has its own share of challenges. Much to the dismay of many citizens, a portion of the material deposited in the landfill blows away in high winds. This affects adjacent areas. Complaints are also raised about the other fringe benefits of landfills—leachate and methane gas.

Both leachate and methane gas are expected consequences of the vast stew of materials present in a landfill—organic waste, metals, plastic, rubber and so on. When rain water filtres through this conglomeration, what leaches through has collected the myriad chemicals from the various materials. To manage this waste, certain measures are taken to try and collect this toxic soup—with more or less success. More on that a little later.

Similarly, the solid waste, a portion being organic naturally undergoes aerobic or oxygen-assisted decomposition. Although, it is not until this process of decomposition takes place in anaerobic conditions when methane gas is generated. Anaerobic conditions occur within the dense mass of waste where there is little to no access for oxygen.

Landfills like Robin Hood Bay now possess systems of piping that collect the leachate and the methane gas. It’s no easy task. Efforts are seriously being made to address the pollution generated by the landfill. However, at Robin Hood Bay, despite the efforts being made to limit the waste, some of it continues to escape and diminish the quality and aesthetics of neighbouring waterways and regions.

So, citizens have been forced to step up and take the municipality to task. What’s been done is wonderful, but more needs to be accomplished. Which is simply to say, the job is rarely ever complete.


Landfills are generally multimillion dollar endeavours. From the engineers who design the landfill to the men and women receiving residents who are bringing their waste to those who operate the vehicles used to manage the waste—compacting the waste and moving it around. People are also required to focus on public relations and so on. For instance, Robin Hood Bay offers tours of their facility. Any landfill waste management organisation will employ hundreds of individuals.

Moreover, there is a periodic need for upgrades. These are usually in the neighbourhood of millions of dollars. Robin Hood Bay recently undertook upgrades to their facility which cost $56 million. As we know, the amount of waste we create is increasing. So, it’s expected that how we manage that waste is going to change and it will continue to demand more money.

Not a Wasted Landscape

A landfill is certainly not reflective of the many landscapes often endeared in our hearts—those by the seashore or with mountains splendidly soaring in the background. Still, they represent a landscape governed by a considerable number of meanings. For those of us dotted around Placentia Bay, it is our waste that helps Robin Hood Bay to grow. Our distance doesn’t abrogate our need to be actively aware of how this mixture of meanings come together, forging this landscape.

Despite the lack of appeal of landfills, they are central to our lives and will continue to play a role in all their myriad facets.


Adetunji, Charles Oluwaseum and Anani, Osikamekha Anthony “Chapter 14 Plastic-Eating Microorganisms: Recent Biotechnological Techniques for Recycling of Plastic”

Baggaley, Kate 2018 “Seagulls are eating all of our garbage” Popular Science

Begum, Tammana 2020 “Microplastics: what they are and how you can reduce them”

Blair, Nicole 2023 “Recycling Statistics in Canada” Made in Canada

Chen, Da et al. 2013 “European Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) Suggest That Landfills Are an

Important Source of Bioaccumulative Flame Retardants to Canadian

Terrestrial Ecosystems” Environmental Science and Technology

Deer, Ryan 2021 “Landfills: We’re Running Out of Space” Roadrunner: Smarter Recycling

Friends of Sugarloaf Path 2017 “St. John’s Dirty Secret”

Ian Froude’s response to “City of St. John’s – Clean Up Robin Hood Bay Landfill, Skerries Brook & Sugarloaf Path”

Government of Newfoundland and Labrador 2017 “SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT STRATEGY


Made in CA 2023 “Recycling Statistics in Canada”

Ritchie, Hannah and Max Roser 2018 “Plastic Pollution”

Shah, Kevin 2020 “A Brief History of Plastic” Medium

Tamoor, M. et al. 2021 “Potential Use of Microbial Enzymes for the Conversion of Plastic Waste Into Value-Added Products: A Viable Solution”

The Canadian Press 2018 “Canadian study finds seagulls eating drywall, metal among other garbage” CBC-NL

The Conference of Canada 2023 “Waste Generation”

Ward, Rachel, Cashore, Harvey,Lavigne, Chantal, and Shochat, Gil 2022 “Illegal Canadian trash keeps ending up overseas. And the federal government won’t say who’s shipping it”

Westreich, Sam 2022 “How do Microplastics Enter Our Bodies?”

Finding a Way Through a Dangerous World

Finding a Way Through a Dangerous World

Image source: Image by Wolfgang Eckert from Pixabay).

Threat, danger, and harm. These are the watch-words for fear. Our world is currently living amidst a brutal push and pull. Myriad countries are playing a role—Russia, the United States, Ukraine, Germany, Poland, Britain and more. Ultimately, what lies at the heart of their melee? It is nothing other than our dear old friend ego and its compatriot, fear. They are two sides of the same coin, central in this charade.

Fear For Survival

Fear is defined as “a very unpleasant or disturbing feeling caused by the presence or imminence of danger.” After emerging from our watery birthplace and setting foot on land, the strive to survive has been a constant companion. With that, has come fear.

We can cast our minds back thousands of years, when our lives were often in danger. At the time, many threats existed beyond the circles of safety we’d desperately create around our fires. Night and day, we’d fear for our survival. It’s a very old game.

Huddled around the safety of the fire. Source: Photo by Joris Voeten on Unsplash.

Although, the game of survival is played according to very different rules nowadays. We need only look at what’s currently occurring now on our planet. Many, if not all, the power games of the various countries and companies revolve around resources we require for our survival—oil, gas, and food.

Naturally, they fear that without the control of the resources, they cannot survive. However, the natural fear is compounded by the fear they’ll lose control of the oil, gas, food and so on. Thus, they fight for power and control. Otherwise, they fear other companies and countries will walk away with billions of dollars and control over more resources.

Ego Enters the Fray

Things get a lot more complicated when our egos enter the fray. Along with fear, our egos play an equally central role. The Latin “ego” means “I” in English. So, if something is “egoic,” it relates to the “ego” or “I.” Egotism is practised by virtually everyone. The idea is a focus on the “I” or the “me.” Egocentrism refers to perceiving the world solely from one’s own personal perspective. In fact, in virtually all the plights of the world, it’s possible to witness the presence of the ego or the “I.”

We derive a sense of who we are by virtue of our ego and with what we identify. We do so intensely, with conditions such as our physical appearance, status, culture, experience, assets, age and of course, money and power. They are what we have become.

Our false selves we hide behind ultimately only fooling

ourselves. Source: Photo by Iulia Mihailov on Unsplash.

For many now in control, their egos are strongly guided by money, power and therefore, control. According to our egoic conditioning, these qualities become how many have defined themselves, what some refer to as the false self. It is not truthfully who they are, although it’s who they’ve become.

Out of Control

Once this groundwork is laid, the way is clear for fear to further seize control. Sometimes it’s an intense fear that drives people to want control over a resource another possesses. “I” demand to have control over that resource, they vehemently claim, given the overwhelming fear it will otherwise slip away. Not necessarily slip away to be lost forever, but into another’s control.

“I” want control of this resource and “I” possess the power to make it so. “I” seek to command this country to do my bidding. Again, “I” have the power to ensure it occurs. We have myriad “I’s” or “egos” strutting about laying claim to this or that resource.

And so, the throng of egos madly thrash about as they are bowed by their indomitable fears. In so doing, they make a mess, governed by their egos, fuelled by their fears. Initially driven by the desire to survive, they are soon subsumed by their egos that are defined by their control of money and power.

Like a passel of unruly kindergartners, each then wrestles for total control. They get nowhere, beyond meeting goals of control they’ve convinced themselves are essential for their, and only their survival. All the while, pandering to their false selves, as per their ego, defined by money, power and control.

We Push Ever More Forcefully

Many push levers convincing themselves they wield total control of the world. In their estimation, it is a control exceeding even that of Mother Nature. Of course, their efforts pale in comparison to the strength and beautiful savageness casually wielded by Mother Nature. After all, before we existed, our planet was at times a cataclysmic maelstrom of explosive devastation far beyond anything humans could hope to muster.

Images of what was once a city of loving, laughing people. Photo Source: Mahmoud Sulaiman on Unsplash.

Either way, they’ll certainly make a mess of at least a part of the world. And they’ve already violently disrupted millions of lives and taken countless others. These entities can cast brutal blows. There is no question.

For some reason, the movement has been one of division rather than unification. And here, it seems fear is the barrier, ensuring we do not come together. Rather, each one fights vehemently for his or her own survival and continued comfort.

Is There Another Way?

We’re left wondering if there is not another way. Most of us know the obvious response to conundrums such as these in our own lives. It’s what many of us do when faced with a threat to our collective survival—we work together. In so doing, we combine our skills and energy and are thus far more than capable of facing any challenge.

Ultimately, actions in the pursuit of global power and its icon of money are partially an effort to control the means to survive. Our egos get in the way and we become defined by money and power. Where does it end?

It will end when those in power cease bowing to their egos, serving up a false self they slavishly attempt to satisfy. Moreover, it’ll end when the overwhelming power of collegiality, kindness, empathy and goodness rises—as it always does eventually.

The essence of hope. Image Source: Michael Kleinsasser from Pixabay

The goal is to come together. Through connection, we find one another and reveal the spirit within. As Brené Brown says, “People are hard to hate close up. Move in.”

I’m not saying the stakes aren’t exceedingly high. We’re playing with fire and yes, it’s entirely likely some of us are going to burn our hands, perhaps irreversibly so. Still, I’m merely saying this is an opportunity for us to resist by simply coming together. Love can douse the flames of hatred.


Brown, Brené 2017 Braving the Wilderness (New York: Random House)

Israel, Ira 2023 “How to Dissolve the Ego (According to Eckhart Tolle’s Teachings)”’s-Teachings)

Narvaez, Darcia F. 2019 “Self-Transformation 2: Ego-Dissolution”

Vice News 2023 “Reporting from Inside the Ukrainian Refugee Crisis”

What’s In a Name? Toponymy of Placentia Bay

What’s In a Name? Toponymy of Placentia Bay

Derived from the Greek word topos meaning “region,” toponymy is simply understood as the taxonomic study of place-names. These may draw on historical or geographical information, as well as etymological information or the history of words.

Generally speaking, we encounter either habitation names or feature names. Habitation names are centred on places that are inhabited such as a village or a town. We can all think of numerous examples of habitation names, like the community where we live. Whereas feature names are tied to a natural or physical feature, say the name of a nearby pond or river. In somewhat more detail, the names may be hydronyms if linked to water, an oronym if a relief feature or finally simply places of natural vegetation growth as in a meadow or grove.

Naming Places

Names are given for myriad reasons. Often, it is espousing a sentiment such as one referring to hope as in the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. In other instances, the reverse is true. In places such as Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve in Newfoundland and Labrador, the name was intended to warn of the treachorous waters along tne coast. It as a name of foreboding intended to prevent ships from meeting with any misfortune.

Image of edicarian fossils at Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve, NL (Source: Wikipedia).

Sometimes, a place-name may be given in honour of an event, however regrettable. A place-name can often describe a piece of landscape or it may memoriolise some event that occurred there, such as Wounded Knee Creek. This is in honour of the Battle of Wounded Knee in South Dakota of the United States.

How do Place-Names Change?

A place-name will naturally change given shifts in the cultural, political or social context. A natural alteration occurs with a social change. The people who are inhabiting a region may change. Hence, a natural transition often takes place. For instance, a name is given in the language of the dominant groups inhabiting an area.

However, that dominant group may change and this may be accompanied with a name change. Placentia is a good example. When the area was populated with the French, it was known as Plaisance. However, when the English took over, it was then referred to as Placentia.

Image of Cape Spear (Source: Wikipedia).

Through what is known as “phonetic transfer,” a name can sometimes change. Phonetic transfer is simply a situation where individuals will develop a new word based on how it sounds. A good example may be from the eastern Avalon. The original name of the region south of St. John’s known now as Cape Spear was originally Cabo Esperança, in Portuguese. They were one of the first nations to establish their presence in Newfoundland.

The name meant “Cape of Hope,” and likely espoused the feelings of the explorers when they first landed. In later years, for the French, when they arrived, it became Cap d’Espoir, still meaning Cape of Hope in English. But then finally, based simply on phonetics, it became modified to Cape Spear in English. Its original meaning was lost, but phonetically, it was still linked to the original name of “Esperança.”

Another interesting name is the current Bay D’Espoir. One of the ways it is pronounced is actually “Bay Despair” which, in meaning, is a reverse of “D’Espoir.” The one is despair while the latter means hope in French.

We can understand Bay D’Espoir phonetically leading to Bay Despair in an English-speaking mind. However, there’s an interesting twist. It just so happens that on an early map from 1743, the name actually appears as Bay du Desespoir which is in fact the French for “despair” in English. So, it’s up to us to ascertain how the name has been altered.

Expected Names

Many of us can spot the names linked to a particular culture. Be they the names of monarchs, notable individuals or ones touched by religion, the place-names are often granted with respect and honour.

Some communities are named for practical reasons, such as Placentia Junction. It was no doubt a junction on the rail line that ran to Placentia. The meanings would accrue afterwards as people formed a community there.

For the places around Placentia Bay, some are more practical then others. Other place names are brimming with feelings. Regardless, a plenitude of sentiment and meaning helps to forge their place in the memories of inhabitants and their descendants.

Around Placentia Bay

Placentia Bay, in particular, is festooned with a rich concoction of names that touch on the unique characteristics and nuances of place. Together, they bring to life the medley of attributes that have given unique highlights—colour and texture—to this part of Newfoundland and Labrador. I’ll just touch on a few interesting names around the bay.

Some of the names most likely originate with the individuals who first settled the community or other noteworthy community members. Patrick’s Cove, on the eastern shore of Placentia Bay was apparently named in honour of a son born in the community whose name was Patrick. In other locations, such as St. Lawrence, Parker’s Cove on the Burin Peninsula or Arnold’s Cove, also on the eastern shore of Placentia Bay, the individual being honoured has now been lost in time. Nonetheless, the names still help to add the flair of culture to a place.


Argentia is another name with an interesting origin, one that touches on the history of the place. Originally known as Little Placentia, it was taken as the younger sibling of Greater Placentia, a few kilometres away. It spent several centuries using this moniker. It could be perceived as a somewhat self deprecating name and so, it’s not surprising community members sought a change.

So, with the arrival of 1904, the idea was to be recognised in a way that would speak to the unique characteristics of the region. The understood explanation was Father John St. John, the local priest, looked to the silver that had recently been discovered in Little Placentia. Then, using the Latin version, “Argenti,” the name Argentia was born.

However, how the new name developed can potentially have an additional detail. When we consult a map from 1762, we see a bay near Little Placentia named “Argent B.” The “B” is a reference for “Bay.” At the time, the British were in control of Newfoundland following decades of turmoil versus the French who once occupied the region, officially, from 1662 to 1713. It was following the Treaty of Utrecht that Britain was given control of the island of Newfoundland.

This is noteworthy because “Argent” means silver in French. Thus, it was possibly a name that was well known in the community when the French resided there. The name may have been adopted by the English speaking inhabitants who lived in Little Placentia from 1713 to 1904, when the name changed.

Decades later, in the latter part of the nineteenth century, a silver mine was actually established in the area. The mine didn’t meet with any great success. Still, as in the past, silver was clearly regarded as a unique attribute in the region. When choosing the new name of the community, it would’ve been understandable to use this quality.

We can only wonder if “Argent Bay” was still a known quantity and whether that also helped in deciding the new name of what would become Argentia.1

Distress Cove

A little further south along the Cape Shore, we encounter St. Bride’s. It too has an interesting journey from its original name to the one at present. On a map from 1875 it’s actually labelled as Distress Cove. Apparently, it was found on other maps as La Stress, presumably when the French controlled Placentia. However, a year later, in 1876, a Reverend Charles Irwin is said to have considered the name a far too unpleasant one. Vested with the authority of the church, he bestowed the community with the name it currently possesses, St. Bride’s. It was no doubt in honour of St. Brigit of Kildare, Ireland.

Comby Chance

Come By Chance is another name that urges us to learn more of its origin. When the region was being settled by Europeans, Come By Chance was known by another name—Passage Harbour. It was so named by John Guy in 1610 when he led others to settle in what eventually became known as Cupids.

In 1706, a Major Lloyd, an English officer was in the region and actually referred to it as Comby Chance. Comby is a name originating in Devon, one of the places from which fisherman coming to work in Newfoundland often hailed. Other than this information, it is a guessing game for the name Comby. However, given phonetics, it’s easy to see how Comby, over time, would have become Come By Chance.

Mere & Jean or Mer aux Chien?

Another interesting name is from Merasheen Island, located in western Placentia Bay. It’s an interesting name and there are in fact, two explanations for its existence. One relates to settlers, one named “Mere” and the other named “Jean.” Over time, their names apparently merged and became Mereasheen.

Photograph of Merasheen (Source:

An alternative explanation holds that the island was initially known as Mer aux Chiens. This allegedly reflected the fact that around the island was an ocean or “mer” in French of the seadogs or seals. Dogs in French is “chien.”

Either explanation could be true. Both add a whiff of charm to the story of the community’s origin.


Oderin is another island in Placentia Bay that came into being in a common manner. The region was mainly populated by the French initially when that particular power governed. This would be officially from 1662 to 1713, although it is highly likely, some of the French preceded the arrival of the state in this part of the world.

Oderin was one of the communities that must’ve been settled by the French. Their choice for the island’s name was after, Audierne, a town in France. Perhaps some of the settlers hailed from this French community.

Following the Treaty of Utrecht, which ended the War of the Spanish Succession between Britain and France, the British established an outpost on the island. The French inhabitants naturally departed, being replaced by English-speaking ones. Naturally, the name of the island changed for the English-speakers, as the phonetics of the name transformed Audierne into Oderin.


Placentia is believed to have also been named after another community in Europe. The Basque were the first to fish in the region. They came from a place now known as Plentzia in the Basque Country in the north of Spain. However, this community was originally known as Plasencia de Butron which was gradually shortened to simply Plentzia or Plencia. The name Placentia derives from “placere” the Latin for “please” or “pleasant.”

Photograph of Placentia, NL (Source: Tom O’Keefe).

In 1662, when the French took control of Placentia, they renamed the community. The meaning remained that same, but it was translated to Plaisance, meaning “pleasant” in French.

This remained the name of the community, until it was again ravaged by the War of the Spanish Succession. Following the war in 1713, the Treaty of Urecht gave control of Plaisance to the British. In so doing, the name changed yet again. Not veering very far from it’s original meaning, it became Placentia.

Volcanic Born

For Red Island, we need to take vast strides into the past. In so doing, we arrive at a time when the region was forming, experiencing volcanic eruptions millions of years ago. During what is termed the Acadian Orogeny or mountain building period, various plutons surged to the surface. Plutons are formations of magma that have been thrust through the sedimentary rocks at the surface. When cooled, they form igneous rock.

Photograph of Red Island (Source: Unknown).

One of these plutons formed in Placentia Bay and following millions of years of erosion and weathering, the result has been Red Island. It’s no small achievement. Comprised of granite, an igneous rock, it bestows on Red Island its iconic colour. Pink, along with grey, white and black, are the most common colours of granite. It’s a simple name, although one that reflects a very deep and tumultuous history.

Some Final Thoughts

Learning the name of a place often opens a vast treasure chest of history and story. It’s possible to learn which of the noble citizenry demanded remembrance by virtue of their names being used for some element of the geography.

We’re able to pry open unknown segments of a community’s history simply by virtue of its name. Who was living there and from where did they come? What were the meanings with which they arrived and eventually settled? What were the odd secrets nestled in its past?

Ultimately, we learn more of the place or feature. Whatever the motivation for the name chosen, it eventually becomes a distinctive facet, a taken for granted spirit of place.


Archival Moments 2018 “Looks like a good Christmas on the Cape Shore”

Anonymous 2023 Twelve Mile Circle — An Appreciation of Unusual Places “Placentia is Not a Flat Cake”

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica 2023 “Toponymy”

Britannica 2023 “Toponymy”

Wikipedia 2023 “Patrick’s Cove-Angels Cove”

WorldAtlas 2023 “What is a Toponym?”


1At the very least, this suggests silver had been discovered in the area centuries before it was discovered again at the end of the nineteenth century.

Acknowledging Our Place in Nature

Acknowledging Our Place in Nature

Pansy growing in a sidewalk Image by Palle Knudsen from Pixabay (plant in sidewalk)

Living within a town or city, a landscape defined largely by steel, glass, and asphalt, it’s difficult to even contemplate a bond with nature. A bevy of straight lines, sharply-defined rectangles and squares seem a million miles away from streams gushing over moss-covered rocks. When we close our eyes and are asked to picture nature, it is the latter that floods into our minds. But amidst that manufactured world, are we so far from nature? In fact, are we ever very far from nature?

Human Versus Nature

Of course, our next question is what exactly is nature. Usually we recognise nature as the plants, animals, geological processes, weather, and the physics of our world, the ones that involve the transformations of matter and energy. It seems simple enough. Although, it has its complications. What often unites the various definitions is an insistence that nature is not associated with humanity. We’re on one side; nature’s on the other.

That’s a critical component to the various definitions. One from the 1660s stated how nature is “the material world beyond human civilization or society; an original, wild, undomesticated condition.” We hear that again and again. For instance, there’s another stating how nature “refers to the ‘natural environment’ or wilderness—wild animals, rocks, forest, beaches, and in general areas that have not been substantially altered by humans, or which persist despite human intervention.” You get the picture, I’m sure.

Birds on the seashore. Image by Pexels from Pixabay.

Our resistance to nature is also apparent elsewhere. Some look to the Christian religion as being responsible for our perceived role as master of the natural world. From Genesis 1:28, we’re told “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” It’s impossible and unreasonable to lay it all at religion’s door. Still, religion no doubt laid some of the groundwork for our inability to see ourselves as part of nature.

Our Fraught Tie With Nature

So, here’s the problem. How can we be a part of something over which we’re intended to have dominion? That’s at least a part of our problem. We feel this push and pull. Some of us seek to be overlords of nature, thrilled at our ability to improve and control nature. Look at the debates that surround genetically modified foods. For a variety of reasons, we’re tinkering with nature. Some are vehemently opposed to us doing so while others insist the benefits outweigh the risks.

Still others of us simply cherish the inherent and balanced bond we have with nature. It is awe-inspiring in its glory, something that contributes to our well-being. Whether we’re regarding plants or animals in our landscape, the nightsky or even images of nature, we derive sense of serenity and happiness and peace. We acknowledge and experience the benefits of being close to nature. Yet, still many of us often resist

Turtle balancing a bubble on his nose. Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Maybe part of our problem also sits with a lack of humility. We are a very adaptable and ingenious species. We know how to survive. Over the millennia, we’ve done so exceedingly well. Where we’ve encountered problems, we’ve readily set about trying to find ways to overcome the obstacles with which we’re presented. Hence, we’re left to think we’ve got this relationship with nature sorted.

Without question, we’re uncertain about which way to turn. Many of us yearn to embrace our place in nature. We feel we are beholden to nature as an overarching lodestar for our existence. In opposition, others look to the myriad inventions and scientific discoveries they feel place humans at the very least en par with nature and more often than not, in the driving seat. But is there a middle ground where these two apparently disparate visions regarding our tie with nature can meet?

We Are Nature

Where did it all begin? None other than in the stars. As in the stars, all life on planet earth, including humans, is composed of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur. We are comprised of the very same elements as every other living creature on earth. So, it’s a simple equation, then. Evidence would suggest we can consider ourselves a part of nature.

But there’s another hurdle. Remember those definitions of nature. Problems arise because of our tinkering. All those miraculous inventions that have radically changed our lives were wonderful and life-altering. However, according to some, it’s those “alterations” and “interventions” that push us further away from being a part of nature.

Busy As A Beaver

Although, in terms of “alterations” of a landscape, we have to recall, we’re not the only species who are busy at it. Beavers, for instance, offer a good example of a creature who does a lot to alter its landscape, creating and intervening.

A beaver hard at it. Image by Manfred Richter from Pixabay.

While they may be the national animal of Canada, they’ve got a few Canadians riled with their “interventions.” Still, they’re just living their lives and acting to improve their surroundings. A central element of their landscape would be ponds and the lack of one is easily remedied with a hallmark component—dams. As highly skilled engineers, they set about downing trees and weaving the branches together to form a dam. Afterwards, any waterproofing of their invention is undertaken with the use of mud.

By damming a river, a beaver can make an immense impact on the landscape. Natural processes of flooding, erosion, sedimentation and so on all come into play. Such activity would readily be considered as an alteration of the landscape. Humans do much the same, albeit at a larger scale.

Not So Unnatural As All That

If we now recognise, we’re not the only ones, what of all our tinkering. Anyone entering a city would likely not consider it a part of nature—likely quite the opposite. After all, our towns and cities are largely comprised of metals, glass, and concrete. On first glance, we would say it’s so unnatural. Hang on, though. Of what are these materials composed?

A primary ingredient of our buildings is steel. It turns out, one of the central cast of characters making up steel is none other than iron ore, sometimes along with scrap metal or simply from the latter alone. It is a key resource we extract from Earth. It’s the fourth most abundant element in the earth’s crust. Isn’t a primary component of many of our skyscrapers and townhouses an element of our natural world?

Similarly, take plastics. They’re often synonymous with the word synthetic. The word synthetic, itself is, by the way, often associated with being “unnatural.” However, a synthetic is merely stating something is the result of a synthesis. There’s nothing inherently unnatural about it.

Plastic rubber duckies ready to be raced. Image by Manfred Richter from Pixabay

So, plastics arrive in our world by way of a process of synthesis. And what are the main elements of plastics? Well, they’d be long chains of carbon compounds. Carbon, of course, is an element we humans know very well. Remember, that’s one of the elements derived from the stars above, from which we’re made. So, we can literally thank our lucky stars.

Given the similarities we share with our beaver friends, altering a landscape cannot prevent us from being a part of nature. Moreover, as we’ve seen, we share one of our main building blocks—carbon—with not only other animals. We also happen share it with the “synthetic” compounds of plastic or the ingredients of steel. Evidence would clearly suggest we’re a part of nature—even our cities would happen to be. So, what’s to hold us back from claiming a genuine place in nature?


Our definitions of nature insist we’re not included. Where do we stand now? Do you think it’s simply because we often suffer from a lack of humility? To put it mildly, there is no question humans are very savvy. We demonstrate ingenuity and great intellect and have overcome numerous adversities, solving countless problems we’ve faced over the centuries.

In a matter of seconds, we can plunder a forest that has been thriving for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. The greatest creatures of the sea, the whales, survive mere seconds from the keen edge of a harpoon. We are the architects of brilliant structures across the centuries that leave of us all awestruck. Think of the Taj Mahal in India, the pyramids of Giza in Egypt or Westminster Abbey in Britain. There are numerous structures that are breathtaking in their beauty and brilliant in their structure. And then there’s the developments. Simply the fact it’s possible to now undertake a face transplant is a marvel alone. Although, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

In the spirit of Leonardo de Vinci, we have worked miracles with our creations Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay.

Although our capabilities may have led us astray. Generally speaking, due to our lack of humility, we are sometimes placing our own interests above that of others. To be humble, we need to more accurately perceive ourselves as a part of nature. We need to exhibit more modesty and seek to focus on the needs of others rather than ourselves. It’s not all about us.

Maybe that’s what has happened. By virtue of our successes and our ability to believe we have thwarted nature in the game of survival, we are less humble. Hence, to regard ourselves as equal to these creatures seems implausible. It cannot be.

The Human, Nature Divide

The debate regarding the relationship of humans and nature is a very old one. Although, I wonder if the question itself isn’t ironically evidence of the difficulty. The question is suggestive of a polarity—humans on one side, nature on the other.

Emma Marris, writer of Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World states how humans are “already running the whole Earth, whether we admit it or not.” Maybe we think we’re running nature. Although that’s part of our problem. Making such a statement is based on the premise that we, as humans, are distinct from nature.

Our interaction may be as simple as blowing fluffy seeds from a dandelion. Image by Petra from Pixabay

Because some would argue we’re not running anything. We’re interacting with other parts of nature with varying expected and unexpected results. Like the beaver building its dam, there’s an impact. Similarly, humans also have an impact on our surrounding nature. That’s all. It’s sometimes quite substantial. But to note our actions are any greater than that of a beaver, relatively speaking, is somewhat arrogant.

Yes, we build great structures. A beaver dam will become dilapidated in a matter of years. Ours will just take a little longer. Ultimately, even a pyramid, bring comprised of rock will, over time, weather and decay. Like everything in nature, there will likely be very little of it in a few millennia.

Moreover, it’s like saying I’m running my body. No I’m not. There are trillions of cells along for the ride who are helping to call the shots. Anything we do in this world is ultimately a collective effort. We are a part of nature and all aspects of that nature have a say.

Some Final Thoughts

Maybe as a genuine part of nature, it’s a matter of appreciating we may not know as much as we think we do. It’s through our humility we do so. After all, before we came along, nature had been at this for hundreds of millions of years. It was through the miracle of nature that all living creatures, including ourselves, came to be. And we all know the human species, in particular, is a masterful creation. As we’ve seen, humans and beavers and myriad other creatures have aspired to great heights as a part of nature. We must all take a bow.


Biello, David 2013 “How Long Have Humans Dominated the Planet?”

Cohen, Steve 2021 “The Limits to Human Domination of Nature”

Green, Kristophe and Keltner, Dacher 2017 “What Happens When We Reconnect With Nature”

Thompson, Claudia 2021 “The Pros and Cons of Genetically Modified Foods”

Torres, Marco 2022 “Our Food Industry in 8 Words: “We Think We Can Do Better Than Nature”

Visitors To Our World

Visitors To Our World

I sometimes find myself daydreaming. I wonder, if some alien entity were to visit our planet just to get to know us, what would I tell them? I’m not someone who’s travelled widely. I’ve not tasted the myriad cultures that grace our rich and colourful world. And I’m certainly not some high-powered executive who wields vast amounts of power where my word is the command for those in the lower echelons. I live a quiet, largely unobtrusive life. So, what would I tell them?

Grandeur of Earth

Grey wolves Image by Angela from Pixabay.

First and foremost, I’d want them to learn about the grandeur of our planet. Firstly, I’d show them places where they’d find the magnificent creatures of our world. Strong and supine, masterfully dexterous or simply finely well-adapted to their habitat. I’d insist we search out the four corners of Earth where the numerous creatures of our world reign supreme. Many of those creatures are small and seemingly insignificant—bats, insects, and birds. Still, they hold court in their domains.

I’m sure they’d be astounded when I showed them the deep Amazon forest with its trove of plants and animals. They’d be astonished at how life is so perfectly coordinated. Another place I’d show them would be the Boreal forest and its panoply of animals and plants. I’d eagerly tell them how the plants, trees, and the animals who live within have often found unique and surprising ways to survive the unforgiving weather that assails the region. If possible, I’d want them to see the ocean depths, too, the mysteries couched within that jewelled realm.

Boreal Forest. Image by Lee Everts.

Similarly, humans must take a bow for part of the grandeur on our planet. I’d excitedly and I admit, proudly show them many of the superlative structures my species have created. I’d tell them how, regardless of when they were built, these structures remain a part of our world, given how they reflect the intellect and wisdom of our human forebears.

Sydney Opera House (Source: Pixabay).

Like many, my first inclination was initially to find places untouched by my own kind. However, I’d assure our visitors how such an objective would be to unfairly disregard the presence of humans, one of the animals who inhabit the earth.

Showing the Shadowy Side

After showing our visitors the grandeur of the planet, I think it’d be only fair to show them the darker side of my species, in particular. I confess I’d hang my head low. Still, if they truly want to know us, they must also understand the fear undergirding life on this planet.

“Why do you fear?” they’d no doubt ask. In response, I’d honestly tell them I’m not exactly sure. Although, I’d maybe start by explaining how all species deeply fear death. Or maybe it’s better to say it in another way; we are all hardwired to survive. At any rate, I’d assure them, I feel that fear has always had a significant role to play.

Other creatures on this planet ably demonstrate such drives for survival. For instance, I’d say, if they were to watch a wolf chasing a caribou, the caribou would run like the wind to escape the wolf. Sometimes it’d work and sometimes, not. I’d tell them they could watch any predator and prey and witness the same drama.

Humans and Our Struggle to Survive

I’d suspect they’d inquire about my species at this point. “Are your kind the same? Do you also feel this fear to which you refer?” Again, I’d have to confess my uncertainty, noting how things get a little more complicated with our story. I could only offer my humble understanding.

I’d explain how I feel fear has become intense for my kind. We struggle to control resources required for survival. Things such as fuel for heat and power, as well as food are the most sought after. In certain parts of our world, nations have been fortunate to possess valuable resources, I’d tell them. The result has led to wars and great distress with countries raging for control of these resources.

Photograph of a limestone quarry showing degradation to the landscape. Image by Hans from Pixabay (quarry).

I’d relate how this fear for our survival has resulted in a wretchedly torn and raked landscape. I can even explain how too many use money to wield their control. But while many have become controlled by the worship of money, I’d still say I think it’s our fear for our survival and our potential death that is the underlying driver. I’ll be sure to explain how it is very sad how my species has been brought down by their misunderstanding.

Dance of Life and Death

“What do you mean?” they’d likely then ask. I’d tell them it’s because I think too many of my species don’t understand death. Many of our fellow species understand death all too well, readily walking into its embracing arms. But too many of my species cannot comprehend how there is truly no beginning or end of life.

Two Yellow Flowers Surrounded by Rocks (Pexels).

I’d tell them how we go on, for it’s a circle, our dance of life and death. My species needn’t fight so vehemently to survive, intentionally taking the lives of others to improve their own pursuit to survive.

Their greed and lust for money are all mortally bound to their fear of death. All is done to control the world and more importantly, to control life. By controlling life I think they feel they’ll control death.

Our alien friends might understand, I’m not sure. But I’ll tell them how my species do not realise it’s okay to die. Along with one another’s destruction, they fight it by steadfastly transforming their bodies. They pursue a life they feel reflects eternal life. They fail to understand our essence, spirit or consciousness is what carries on.

Certainly, I’d acknowledge these are beliefs. Still, don’t beliefs become reality I’d ask them? Sometimes, we can go forward with a feeling or sense rather than always feeling the need to prove it scientifically. How does it feel? We must listen to our bodies. We’ll know.

I’ll tell them how I fear many of my species don’t understand who they are and how simple life can be. I feel we are here to share and give of ourselves. Wouldn’t life be so simple if we accepted this truth?

That’s the best I’d be able to do as I help them understand my planet. And I’d say to them, I hope they’ll return one day to see if we’ve somehow been able to change.

Awe and Wonder of the Night Sky

Awe and Wonder of the Night Sky

Gazing into the sky, we’re always alone. Make no mistake. Even if there are one hundred or more heartbeats surrounding us, the connections we feel with the night sky remain a solitary one. Before us is a starry pin-pricked universe. Deep in our hearts, we know we belong intimately to the stars. And when we are truly alone, not a soul for miles around, looking up, we are embraced by a celestial extravaganza.

A Passion for the Night Sky

We’ve always had a close relationship with the stars. It makes sense. A recent study from NASA found that we share about 97 percent of the atoms and other elements of life with our galaxy’s centre. We share with our universe something so integral to who we are as humans. It’s very humbling.

Star formation in the constellation Orion as photographed in infrared by NASA‘s Spitzer Space Telescope (Source Wikipedia).

From our earliest moments on this earth, we’ve been entranced by what lay in the skies above. Millennia ago, our forebears in Greece brought us the patterns named according to legends. Orion, Aquarius, Cassiopeia, and Virgo were amongst the 88 constellations named. And it’s believed astrology’s origins emerged from the Sumerians. That may be so. Although, it’s possible the origins of these storied beliefs depicted as the constellations of Aries, Cancer, and Capricornus and more were from a much deeper past.

Possible Origins of Astrology

In Lascaux, France, a group of curious schoolboys happened upon paintings of animals hidden in a cave. Dating from the Upper Palaeolithic, the scenes appeared to depict hunts and so it was regarded as a snapshot of life at the time.

More recently, researchers decided to look again at the images. When they did, they came up with a far different explanation. It was one that demonstrated that around 40,000 years ago, our forebears were also acutely bound to the skies above. The researchers believed the pictures were not of a mere hunt. Rather, they were astronomical illustrations, maps for the heavens above.

Photography of Lascaux animal painting (Source: Wikipedia).

In the 2018 article in the Athens Journal of History, Martin Sweatman and Alistair Coombs explained their case. Using advanced software, they were able to indicate how the depictions mirrored actual constellations. Extending their explorations, they compared constellations with animals appearing on the cave walls in France, Spain, Germany, and Turkey.

Were the images on the caves in the various countries the true origin of astrology? If the knowledge of Sumer made its way to Greece, is it not possible the knowledge of astrology journeyed a greater distance through time from the Upper Palaeolithic to the Sumerians? In any case, simply in the naming the stars, we’ve continued to express the inherent bond we have with the mysteries of the nightsky.

Various Cultures and Their Ties To the Night Sky

Our cultures have demonstrated their ties with the stars in other ways. Maes Howe in Orkney is dated around 2,700 BC1. It is the largest and most intricate chambered cairn in Orkney. It was certainly built to be a presence in the landscape, visible for miles around.

The architects of Maes Howe took great care in the construction of the cairn. During the darkest time of the year, leading up to winter solstice, the ebbing rays of the setting sun are permitted to shine through the entrance passage of the chambered cairn, piercing the darkness.

Maes Howe (Source: Wikipedia).

It is a bond with the sun, one filled with a comforting knowledge the darkness of the midwinter sun will soon give way to a resurgence of the light. This was a relationship on which the people strongly depended. It too signified an intimate tie with the skies above.

There are numerous monuments where the tale is the much the same. For instance, at Stone Henge, the structure of the stone circles is in accordance with both the summer and winter solstices. For the winter solstice, in particular, the monument appears to have been constructed in order to point towards the winter solstice sunset.

On the other side of the Atlantic in Mexico, the Mayan pyramid Chichen Itza stands. It’s one of seven structures where the building itself features in the winter solstice. For instance, at Chichen Itza, visitors are in awe as they watch the dawning summer solstice, climb the temple stairs.

A Closer Examination of the Night Sky

All of these instances are indicative of a unified and harmonious affinity with the stars above. People have been closely examining the movement of the sun and the planets for millennia. Certainly included are the people of Greece and Rome who gave us the legends on which astrology plays a central role.

Nicolaus Copernicus portrait from Town Hall in Toruń – 1580) (Source: Wikipedia).

Others included Copernicus. He completed the first manuscript of his book, “De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium” (“On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres”) in 1532 and published it eleven years later in 1543. His was a radical interpretation of the sun. He argued the sun, a heliocentric view, rather than the earth, a geocentric conception, lay at the centre of the solar system.

This set off a barrage of criticism from quarters as an earth-centred understanding of the solar system had been the norm since ancient Greece. It accorded with the religious views that demanded we be at the centre of the cosmos. It would take another century for the heliocentric or sun-centred solar-system to be adopted. In the meantime, the works of Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler and Isaac Newton would all go on to broaden our understanding of the night sky.

Awe for the Night Sky

Elements of the night sky have had us spellbound for millennia. There are no doubt moments when we’ve actually entered close to a meditative state while pondering the night sky and its denizens. In any case, our mind and body are able to slow down. And when we’re distracted by the awesome vista before us, the difficulties we may have been experiencing miraculously slip away.

Cassiopeia constellation Image by WikiImages from Pixabay.

One can simply imagine the people in awe silently watching the winter solstice cast a light into the passageway at Maes Howe. And tens of millennia ago, the men and women looked up into the nightsky and beheld creatures that no doubt held some sort of reverence in their own lives. Likewise, people nowadays are exhilarated by the sight of a meteor shower or eclipse.

In each case and more like them, we have found elements of wonder and reverence hidden from us in our daily lives in the skies above. Illustrious and magical, they are visions that for a moment can set our spirits free.


Byrd, Deborah 2020 “Celebrate solstice sunrise at Stonehenge live online”

Dobrijevic, Daisy 2021 “Geocentric model: The Earth-centered view of the universe” Space

Greenspan, Rachel E. 2019 “Here’s Why Stonehenge Is Connected to the Summer Solstice”

Historical Astrology 2022 “Sumerian Astrology”

Harvey, Ailsa 2022 “Heliocentrism: Definition, origin and model” Space

Howell, Elizabeth 2017 “Humans Really Are Made of Stardust, and a New Study Proves It”

Impey, Chris 2011 “Copernicus and the Heliocentric Model” Teach Astronomy

My Modern Met 2022 “10 Legendary Constellations and the Stories Behind Them (According to Greek Mythology)”

Newby, Gregg 2020 “Were Paleolithic Cave Paintings Actually First Star Maps?”

Rituals 2020 “How stargazing is good for your health and well-being”


1This may be even earlier, as exact dating is not possible. The surrounding ditch was dated, although it may post-date the actual construction of Maeshowe.